Chapter 2 – 1955-64 - Professional Historians Association (South

National Trust of South Australia 50th year history
Chapter 2 Groundwork, 1955–64
South Australian Parliament enacts the National Trust of South
Australia Act 1955. Hilda Roach donates the first property, 45 hectares
near Kersbrook (named Roachdale in 1956).
Inaugural National Trust of South Australia (NTSA) meeting: Sir
Arthur Rymill elected president and Major General GW Symes first
honorary secretary; Council, Executive and subcommittees are set up.
Alison Ashby donates property at Eden Hills (Watiparinga). National
Trust of Australia (Victoria) forms. Greatest flood on record in River
Murray damages or destroys much heritage. First branch forms:
Commonwealth allows donations to national trusts to be deductible for
income tax. State legislation frees NTSA from most State taxation. HC
Kempe elected honorary secretary. Property donations: Wilabalangaloo,
Paringa, Encounter Bay, Hut Garden at Gawler.
Jeffrey Clarke (son of Geoffrey Clarke) becomes honorary secretary.
Designs selected for NTSA emblem.
Renmark opens first NTSA museum. Property donation: Engelbrook.
National Trust of Australia (Western Australia) forms.
National Trust of Australia (Tasmania) forms. Field Naturalists’
Society of SA invited to become a member of NTSA Council. First
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Adelaide Festival of Arts held: NTSA antique furniture exhibition
makes profit of £281/7/4. New branches: Millicent, Mt Gambier.
New committees: Women’s, Early Buildings. Early Buildings
Committee gathers information on notable pre-1886 buildings. New
branch: Barmera.
Sir Edward Morgan attends meeting in Canberra to discuss forming a
federal Council of National Trusts. First NTSA Newsletter. New
branches: Nor’West Bend (Waikerie), Burra Burra, Mannum.
National Trust of Queensland forms. Government authorises use of
Ayers House stables and coach house as NTSA headquarters (moves in
1964). NTSA establishes the Marion as a museum at Mannum. Early
Buildings Committee publishes city walks brochures. Women’s
Committee raises £1,500 from Gold & Glass exhibition. Millicent
Branch (with Hamilton Branch, Victoria) organises open house at ‘Old
Penola’, raising more than £700. NTSA acquires paddle steamer
Marion and Nappers Hotel ruins, Lake Bonney. New branch: Berri.
Jeffrey Clarke retires as honorary secretary; RJ Shepherd is engaged as
first full-time secretary. NTSA decides to establish horse-drawn vehicle
collection. First branch convention held. New branches: Clare,
Kingston (SE), Moonta, Mt Barker, Mt Lofty Range. New properties
include Bery Bery Reserve (opposite Berri) and Sheriff Reserve
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Setting up
The preservation and maintenance for the people of South Australia of lands
and buildings of beauty or historic, scientific, artistic, or architectural interest
and, as regards lands, the preservation (so far as is practicable) of their natural
aspect, features and animal and plant life. (National Trust of South Australia
Act 1955)1
A bill to enact the National Trust of South Australia was passed by the
Legislative Council in October 1955 and the Governor assented to the Act (No
43) on 8 December. In brief, the Act required the National Trust to protect
significant parts of the natural or built environment, including amenities,
surroundings, furniture and other artefacts, and to promote public access to and
enjoyment of them.2
The inaugural meeting and the first Council meeting set the scene for many
years. The first president established a diplomatic, ‘softly softly’ approach,
reflecting the conservative outlook of the Establishment members who
dominated the Trust.3
First meetings
The inaugural meeting was held on 7 March 1956 in the Institute Building on
North Terrace, the headquarters of the Royal Geographical Society of
Australasia, South Australian Branch (RGS). Sir Keith Angas took the chair
and welcomed 100 foundation members and friends. In keeping with its
origins, Bill Lindsay outlined the history of the National Trust in England.
Angas stressed the necessity of slow and steady progress for the South
Australian Trust, which would cooperate with all ‘persons and bodies carrying
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out the aims for which the Trust stands’. To allay concerns of the RGS and
other associations that the Trust would take over their role, Angas gave an
assurance that the Trust did not wish ‘to interfere with or usurp’ other bodies
that were intending to join it.4
Major-General Symes was willing to accept accolades as a founder, but did not
wish to be president and instead asked Sir Arthur Rymill. As the only nominee,
Rymill was elected president, continuing until 1960. Rymill was a leader of the
Adelaide Establishment, a law graduate, a company director, a sportsman and
an amateur violinist. He was an astute choice as president because he was at
the peak of his political career, recently Lord Mayor (1950–54), currently State
president of the LCL (1953–55) and shortly to be a Legislative Council
member (1956–75).
The National Trust was governed by a large Council of 27: the president,
secretary and treasurer, 12 other elected members, and 12 representatives. All
those nominated for the other Council positions were elected unopposed (early
Council members were usually invited and elected unopposed), together with
representatives of the ‘Learned Societies and other bodies’ named under the
Act. Symes was elected honorary secretary, LR Clifford of the Bank of
Adelaide was honorary treasurer, and LT Ewens became honorary auditor.
Two other elected members, E Stirling Booth and Basil Harford, had been
members of the National Trust for South Australia, and so gave the State’s first
National Trust a continuing presence. Bill Lindsay represented the Adelaide
The other organisations represented were the Royal Society, Royal
Geographical Society, University of Adelaide, Institute of Architects, Youth
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Hostels Association, Country Women’s Association, National Gallery of South
Australia, South Australian Museum, Trades and Labour Council of South
Australia, Pioneers’ Association and Zoological Society. All had given strong
support to forming the Trust, but their inclusion also reflected the composition
of the English National Trust’s Council, indicating the English character of the
new Trust.
Rymill presided over the first Council meeting at Adelaide Town Hall on 27
March 1956.5 The four subcommittees formed at this meeting show the Trust’s
focus at this time: the Historic Committee, chaired by HJ Finnis, to deal with
built heritage; the Nature Conservation Committee (NB Tindale); the Finance
Committee (AM Simpson); and the Furniture and Art Committee (HC
Morphett). An Executive Committee was also formed comprising the
president, subcommittee chairmen, Humphrey Kempe (another founding
Council member) and Symes.
Nature conservation was a major consideration from the start. Alison Ashby,
the only woman elected to Council (although several women were nominated
to Council as representatives of other organisations), was interested in the
environment and proposed a movement to preserve areas of natural flora, fauna
and bird life. She suggested that the Trust approach all district councils and the
Country Women’s Association, whose members could make a valuable
The Council decided that ‘controversy’ with other bodies would be avoided;
that all public announcements must be authorised by the president or secretary;
and that buildings, land and other donations were to be accepted only if they
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fulfilled the Trust’s aims, and were endowed or self-supporting. In practice,
however, the Trust sometimes accepted properties that were not endowed.
Where buildings here listed are in the hands of the institutions or private
owners likely to see to their preservation … no steps may be necessary, but I
am inclined to suspect that the Government impelled by some urgency may
snatch at some of them for conversion or mutilation … In such cases a
declaration by the Trust would be a protection. (Walter H Bagot, 1956).6
The National Trust had to acquire members, find money, identify the heritage it
hoped to save, and locate a headquarters. All these challenges were addressed
by the voluntary efforts of members, but many of these drew on longestablished professional skills. The prominent architect Walter Bagot, a
sponsor of the Trust, exerted an enduring influence by providing two lists he
had prepared for a book on South Australia’s historic buildings. Those ‘in
danger of interference’ he marked ‘P’ or ‘PP’ in cases of priority.7 Many of
them would soon be ‘classified’ by the Trust, and some, like the ANZ Bank
Building in King William Street, would later become conservation
battlegrounds. At the same time, the Trust was ‘constantly being asked to do
this, or to prevent the doing of that, to some place which is private property,’
and had to convince the public that it had no coercive powers.8
The first year was important in establishing the groundwork. Leaders were
selected, committees formed and policies were developed. Some issues dealt
with were the acquisition and management of land, funding and publicity. As
the Trust also needed to attract more members to be effective, it campaigned
strongly to increase membership from 509 in 1957 to 1,816 in 1964.
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To meet the urgent need for office space, Geoffrey Clarke provided
accommodation, initially rent-free, in his accounting practice at 77 Grenfell
Street. The firm’s typists, Barbara Brumitt and Winsome Taylor, assisted with
the work and one of Clarke’s two sons, Jeffery, became Honorary Secretary
from 1958–64; he was then appointed to Council and was an Executive
Committee member until 1969.9
Some Trust members had participated in the earlier delegations urging the
Premier to save Austral House (Ayers House) and Rymill was keen for the
National Trust to occupy it. Playford kept his promise to consider the Trust’s
case when the building was vacated by Royal Adelaide Hospital nurses. In
1964, Playford’s last year as premier, the Trust’s headquarters were moved to
the Coach House at Austral House. This signified ‘recognition that the Trust
has become firmly established and is making steady progress’.10
Harold Finnis, chairman of the Trust’s Historic Committee, argued that ‘the
securing of property should … be our principal objective until it is expedient to
alternate the Trust’s policy’.11 Noting that one acre in every 185 in England or
Wales was owned or controlled by the English National Trust, Finnis thought
that the Trust would not become an ‘institution of substance’ unless it had
control over a substantial amount of land. There would also need to be
‘sufficient money to cope with the requirements of a growing organisation.’ He
considered that the Trust should therefore concentrate ‘primarily for the time
being on capital and land’.12 The Trust accepted this advice and adopted a
policy of acquiring land and other properties until the 1980s, when property
management was to become a major challenge.
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Some members thought that ‘in South Australia buildings of historic or
architectural interest are comparatively few’, and were therefore not very
important.13 Others believed that this scarcity reinforced the need to protect
what there was.14 This ambivalent attitude to built heritage meant that the Trust
initially focused more strongly on the natural environment. The founders of the
Trust in NSW were similarly motivated, but South Australia’s National Trust
differed from the other Australian trusts by putting strong emphasis on
landscape preservation, a trend that has continued.
This was not to say that the Trust took no interest in buildings. Some quiet
advice was provided to the State’s Town Planning Committee, established in
1956 after agitation by planners and architects who also supported the new
Trust. From 1961, the Trust’s Early Buildings Committee showed strong
interest in historic buildings. British heritage expert Ian Lindsay, deputy
chairman of the National Trust of Scotland, contributed information on a visit
in 1962 arranged by the Australian UNESCO committee in cooperation with
Australian national trusts. However, of the 21 properties owned or leased by
the South Australian Trust by 1964, 19 were nature reserves, one was a paddle
steamer and one a ruin — Nappers Accommodation Hotel at Barmera. The
Trust also had an early hand-operated wine press at Renmark.15 It did not
acquire its first intact building until 1965.
It is a voluntary body and obtains its funds by subscriptions from members,
donations, bequests, and public appeals … a large membership will facilitate
its task, as much from the point of view of demonstrable public support as
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from increased revenue … Will YOU help by becoming an annual subscriber
and an active member? (National Trust membership brochure)16
The Trust needed money and pondered ‘how to convince the public that the
Trust is not a rich body, and, in particular, that it is not supported by some
government subsidy?’ Neither the federal nor state governments provided
funds: these came mainly from member subscriptions and gifts. Although only
two businesses were listed as founding members in 1956, corporate
membership was established during the first year and there were 22 by the end
of 1957, including ‘many commercial concerns with an Adelaide history going
back to the 19th Century’.17 From 1961, funds were boosted further by the
valiant efforts of the Women’s Committee.
Legislation was needed to free Trust properties and funds from taxes and
duties. In 1956 the secretary (Symes), with the NSW and Victorian National
Trusts, arranged a coordinated approach to the federal treasurer.18
Commonwealth legislation in 1957 duly allowed donations and bequests to
national trusts to be deductible for income tax and estate duties. State
legislation freed the South Australian Trust from state taxation, except for
water rates.
A national movement
South Australia was not the first state to establish a national trust in Australia
— it was preceded by NSW in 1945 — but South Australia’s was the first to be
incorporated under an Act of Parliament. An Act to incorporate the NSW Trust
was not passed until 1960. The National Trust of Australia (Victoria) was
formed in 1956, followed by every other state and territory by 1965. Even
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before then, in 1962, the South Australian Executive Committee discussed a
proposal from NSW to establish a federal Council of National Trusts. The
South Australians favoured a loose affiliation between states rather than a
formal body; trusts could confer on national matters when necessary. However,
the other trusts were keen to establish a federal council and attended a meeting
in Canberra in 1963 to discuss its formation. The South Australian Trust sent
former president, Sir Edward Morgan, as its representative.19
Afterwards, Sir Edward wrote to the South Australian president, Hurtle
Morphett, describing himself as ‘a voice crying in the wilderness’ for speaking
against a federal body. He thought that ‘the chief advantage of a federal council
might be the obtaining of a subsidy from the Commonwealth Government’,
which probably explained the enthusiasm of the other trusts, but the matter was
‘hardly mentioned’ at the meeting. While willing to cooperate, and aware of
the advantages of a combined approach to key issues such as tax deductibility,
South Australia remained suspicious of a national body. 20
Following the formation of the four initial subcommittees, two new committees
were formed in 1961, both of which would play important roles — the Early
Buildings Committee and the Women’s Committee. John Bonython Junior
directed the efforts of another committee formed to oversee the Trust’s first
exhibition at the inaugural Adelaide Festival of Arts in 1960. The exhibition of
antique furniture, arranged in rooms set in different periods at the Town Hall,
drew 3,310 visitors. It also made a profit, the first in what was to become a
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major source of funds, but future events were organised by the Women’s
Nature Conservation
Many founding members joined to help conserve bushland threatened by urban
and rural development, and the Nature Conservation Committee was initially
the Trust’s largest committee. The eight members included N Tindale
(chairman), HA Lindsay, C Warren Bonython and Alison Ashby. For many
years the committee played a significant role, assessing reserves and advising
on their management once they were in Trust hands; members brought their
personal and professional skills to bear on preserving unique sites such as
Hallett Cove. Tindale often combined South Australian Museum field trips
with Trust business. For example, on a field trip to Loxton and Renmark, he
visited the new Trust property, Wilabalangaloo, and found two Aboriginal
implements on the mining cuts.21
Early Buildings
The Early Buildings Committee was established to classify buildings of
architectural or historic interest built before 1886, the 50th year of South
Australia’s white settlement. The chairman was architect Dean Berry, who
became Trust president in 1966.
Committee members faced a massive task, the largest of any National Trust
committee. A start on the classification and recording of buildings was soon
made, and the earliest entries in the National Trust’s Register date from 1961.
The committee used Walter Bagot’s earlier list as part of its process. Buildings
were classified according to whether they were (A) architecturally important;
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(H) historically interesting; (B) on Walter Bagot’s list; (I) interesting; or (P)
photographic records only should be kept.22 By the end of 1964 the committee
had recorded 250 buildings, with only 22 in ‘category A’.23
In 1961 then president, Sir Edward Morgan, said that he hoped both state and
federal governments, as well as private organisations that could destroy
buildings, would take notice of these classifications. The committee lobbied the
Government directly to preserve Adelaide’s Destitute Asylum and Mounted
Police Barracks. Berry also asked the Director of the South Australian Museum
to preserve the barracks in any rebuilding by the museum. The Trust’s
Executive Committee gave Berry power to take any action necessary to
preserve the Destitute Asylum, showing unusually strong resolve at this early
stage.24 However, Berry and the other committee members believed that it was
impossible to preserve many buildings, and suggested that portions might be
preserved in an area set aside for the purpose. This attitude to conservation was
to involve Berry in a major controversy a decade later when he was president.
The Women’s Committee
My father said, ‘Would you like to be on the Women’s Committee? And I
said, ‘Yes, please’. (Marion Wells, 2004) 25
The Women’s Committee was established in 1961 to raise funds for the Trust
and publicise its activities. The first chair was Kathleen de Crespigny, the wife
of Geoffrey de Crespigny, a Trust founder. In an era when women were
accepted in the paid workforce only through necessity and did not take on
prominent public roles, this was the only Trust committee at the time chaired
by a woman. Nevertheless, the committee’s role was invaluable and Mrs de
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Crespigny was elected to the Trust’s Council in 1962, bringing the number of
elected women representatives to two.
Marion Wells, who joined her mother, Lady Morgan, on the committee in
about 1962, describes the 15 members as ‘all from the old Adelaide families’,
and married to the Trust’s male founders; this lack of recognition for married
women as founders in their own right is again characteristic of the era. They
included luminaries such as Gwynnyth, Lady Angas; Dorothy, Lady Morgan;
and Margaret, Lady Rymill. Their social standing gave them the contacts to
arrange exhibitions and other events, and they worked effectively to raise
funds. The committee’s first antique exhibition in 1961 provided much needed
publicity for the Trust, and the profit of £973 far exceeded expectations. The
Council congratulated the committee for its ‘splendid work’.26
Horse-drawn vehicles
As motor vehicles had replaced horse-drawn transport, it was a sign of the
times when in 1964 another committee was set up under the chairmanship of
Clive Corbin to establish a collection of horse-drawn vehicles. These were
scattered about the country and many were deteriorating. Corbin and Tom
Downer decided to collect one example of each type of vehicle found in South
Australia during the century 1850–1950. Adopting the idea of a farm museum
along the lines of a folk museum in Copenhagen, the committee accepted the
offer of the Municipal Tramways Trust to use rent-free part of the old Tram
Depot at Maylands. This was an appropriate space as the depot had once
housed horse-drawn trams, but, like many other offers of space, it was not to
last. From 1970, when the Government asked the Trust to remove the
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collection, it became as mobile in the search for a home as the vehicles had
been themselves.27
No Aboriginal heritage committee was established until an Aboriginal Relics
Committee was formed in 1969. There is no written explanation for this
absence, and it is surprising given the Trust’s public statements and the work of
members such as Tindale, Cleland and Abbie. Tindale and Lindsay, who were
friends, and members of the Nature Conservation Committee, co-authored
popular books about the Aborigines: The first walkabout (1954), and
Aboriginal Australians (1963). Tindale’s journals show that he did offer advice
to the Trust on Aboriginal heritage, and he noted Aboriginal sites and objects
on visits to Trust properties; he also helped to label and pack an important
collection for the move to the Waikerie Branch museum.28
Despite the lack of a State committee, many Trust branch members, who were
interested in all aspects of heritage, sometimes acted to preserve Aboriginal
objects or sites, as shown at Renmark. In 1960 an Aboriginal ceremonial
ground at Djip-Djip Rocks, an area of granite outcrops near Kingston (SE),
was threatened with destruction as the rocks were wanted for roadmaking. The
Highways Department agreed not to destroy them, but there was no guarantee
they would continue to be protected.29 In 1964 action initiated by Verne
McLaren prompted the Highways Department to advise that it was unlikely to
use the rocks for road material.30 McLaren had both a practical and a
sophisticated view of the range of heritage that needed preserving. He was
chairman of the National Trust’s new Kingston Branch and was to become
prominent in the Trust’s nature conservation efforts.
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I was very interested to hear the possibility that the area near Spring Cart
Gully, between Berri and Renmark, might become National Trust property.
The area has much interest for Anthropologists because the cliffs in the
vicinity are where the aborigines of the Murray Valley obtained the cherts and
other flint-like stone, which was used for their stone knives. We had been
searching for this place for some years until our attention was drawn to it by
Mr HW King of Berri.
We believe that the original native name of the place where the aborigines
mined their stone was Wilapalanggalu which is I believe preserved in an
anglicised form as the property name in the vicinity. The fact of this
association should add to its interest as a National Trust property. (Norman
Tindale, 1957)31
Tindale’s suggested name, Wilabalangaloo, was adopted for one of the Trust’s
new properties in 1957. Naming properties was one of the easier tasks facing
the Trust’s committees. Jeffery Clarke, who acted as secretary for all Trust
committees, remembers that they worked harmoniously, but there were
differences of opinion about what properties they could accept and how they
could afford them. There was also some wariness that the Trust was taking
over the Government’s role, and indeed this was often the case, at a time when
few nature reserves and even fewer structures were protected by the
Sometimes there was no choice: the first two properties, Roachdale and
Watiparinga, were ‘suddenly dropped’ on the Trust, although both properties
did come with good endowments that supported them over the years.32 There
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seems to have been little inclination to follow the English Trust by refusing to
accept properties lacking endowment or the capacity to generate income. This
was despite the fact that the natural properties donated in South Australia were
mainly areas of native bush, which precluded profits from cropping or grazing,
unlike many of the farming properties donated in England.
The Trust’s first property, 45 hectares of Humbug Scrub, near Kersbrook, was
donated by Hilda Roach in 1955 and named Roachdale in 1956. Part of the
property was leased to the Youth Hostels Association, which built a substantial
hostel. Another section was used for camping by the Girl Guides Association,
demonstrating the outdoor recreation interests that motivated many early
supporters of the Trust. The issue of property management surfaced in 1961
when a serious bushfire burnt scrub and fencing at Roachdale, but the fire
removed a lot of dense undergrowth, keeping the property safe from fire risk
for some time.33 The fire demonstrated how much work was needed to monitor
and protect natural reserves, apart from constructing signs and tracks for
visitors. Sheer hard work was called for, all done by volunteers. Fortunately,
the second property donated to the Trust also brought willing workers.
In 1956 Alison Ashby donated 32 hectares of grazing land in the Eden HillsBelair district. Tindale discovered the Aboriginal name of the creek that ran
through the property from Sleeps Hill Tunnel to Tonsley Park and suggested it
be called by this name. He noted in his journal in 1957, ‘Today the Executive
of the National Trust accepted the name Watiparinga for Miss Ashby’s land
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given to the Trust.’34 Watiparinga means the middle creek — it is midway
between Brownhill and Sturt Creeks.
Ashby attached conditions, the main one being that the property was to be
‘planted with Australian trees and shrubs for the enjoyment of the public’. She
raised many thousands of plants herself and planted them with the assistance of
enthusiastic helpers. Her strong desire to preserve the place as bushland is
evident in her stipulation that if the Trust wanted to use the land for any other
purpose, it must obtain her approval. Watiparinga was formerly part of
‘Wittunga’ farm and Ashby’s brother, Keith, was given free grazing rights over
the part not planted; a division fence was constructed to protect the
vegetation.35 The Governor, Sir Robert George, unveiled a plaque at
Watiparinga in 1959, the first National Trust plaque to be erected in South
Australia. Ashby established an endowment fund in 1958 for the reserve’s
development and maintenance. In 1960 she was made a Member of the Order
of the British Empire for her contribution to the preservation of Australian
The owners of two riverfront properties near Renmark gave portions of their
land to the Trust in 1957. The Dowling family donated 17 hectares of river flat
land at Paringa, and named it Margaret Dowling Park. The other land was
Wilabalangaloo, 24 hectares on the opposite side of the River Murray, between
Renmark and Berri. This was donated by Janet Reiners, who also gave her
homestead to the Trust in 1971. In 1959 Mr and Mrs Carl Engel presented the
26-hectare bushland property Engelbrook, near Bridgewater in the Adelaide
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Hills, to the Trust. Like Watiparinga, Engelbrook supports native vegetation,
but has a cooler and wetter climate.
Hallett Cove
In 1957 Professor AR Alderman from the University of Adelaide’s Department
of Geology and Geophysics wrote to the Trust to recommend preservation of
the glacial pavements at Hallett Cove, an area of international geological
renown. Known as Tate’s Glacial Pavement, this was first noted in 1877 by
Professor Ralph Tate as a relic of the Permian ice age of 270 million years ago.
Tindale and Kempe inspected the pavements and in 1958 the Trust contacted
the trustees of the estate of George Sandison, who had owned the land, to
discuss purchase. This was the beginning of a saga that was to last more than
eight years.
By 1959 the 30 beneficiaries of the estate agreed to present a one chain strip of
land to the Trust, to be called Sandison Reserve. This was transferred to the
Trust in 1960 but the main area the Trust wished to preserve was on a
government-surveyed road. C Warren Bonython, the new chair of the Nature
Preservation Committee, and the secretary, Jeffery Clarke, met to discuss this
with members of Marion Council.
The council was determined to construct the road, despite the fact that ‘one half
of it was on the cliff-tops, but the other half out in the air, at up to 100 feet
above the boulder strewn beach below.’36 The council would agree to close the
road reserve only if the Trust bought land nearby to use instead. The Trust
refused and negotiations dragged on until the council finally agreed to the
closure. The adjoining landowners then objected to the closure, although they
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all lived elsewhere. The Trust appealed to the Surveyor-General and was
advised that the road would be closed in 1965.37
The Paddle Steamer Marion
In 1962 ‘history fanatics’ Harry Godson and John Norris discussed preserving
an icon of river transport: South Australia’s last steam-powered passenger
vessel, the Marion, moored at Berri. Godson wrote to The Advertiser, Premier
Playford and the Director of the Tourist Bureau suggesting this should be
located at the dry dock at Mannum, once the hub of river shipping, and made
into a museum.
The Marion was built between 1898 and 1900 and served as a trading store
boat, towing barges and carrying cargo and passengers on the River Murray.
Hurtle Morphett, third president of the National Trust, was interested in the
proposal and in 1963 the Trust purchased the vessel. Mannum Council
approved the plan to relocate the Marion under its own steam and make it a
museum, sparking a move to form a National Trust branch at Mannum.
However, when the proposal to display the vessel out of water raised a storm of
protest, as wooden boats deteriorate if they dry out, the Trust agreed to berth it
in a wet dock. Jeffery Clarke had a hectic time arranging for the final trip, the
Trust’s most ambitious public event, finding a crew, organising insurance,
buying equipment, stores and food, notifying branches and arranging the
official passenger list and events.38 His success demonstrated ‘his genius for
organisation and supervision’.39
The Marion left Berri on 6 June 1963. With Captain WH Drage in charge, John
Norris as chief engineer, and enthusiastic crew members, including Godson
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and journalist Max Fatchen, the steamer’s progress aroused great enthusiasm.
There were crowds at every stop, and at Waikerie swarms of visitors made the
vessel list. A special train brought passengers from Adelaide to Morgan and
1,000 lined the wharf. VIPs boarded at Purnong and Bowhill, including Hurtle
Morphett and his wife, Sir Thomas and Lady Playford, and Sir Edward and
Lady Morgan. Premier Playford announced that £1,000 would be provided
towards the Marion fund.
Welcomed by a crowd of more than 8,000, the Marion arrived at Mannum on
10 June 1963 and was towed to the Mannum Dock. The Governor, Sir Edric
Bastyan, opened it as a Museum for River Navigation in 1964.40 The Marion’s
journey was the Trust’s most popular event, generating ‘enormous publicity’.41
But the subsequent care and restoration of the steamer would ultimately prove
to be beyond the Trust’s resources.
I believe the country people formed and joined branches because they still had
all the old items on the farms and felt they would be better housed in a
museum so that the generations to come could learn of the early days in the
district. (Pat Carr, 2005)42
Within its first year, the National Trust began to form branches, an activity
equally as important as nature or object preservation or building classification,
and greatly extending those other activities through the action of branch
members. The branch established at Renmark in August 1956 was the first in
what was to become the most extensive branch network of any Australian trust.
This first branch was mainly an initiative of Humphrey Kempe, who owned a
property near Renmark. Although retired to Adelaide, ‘he was an incredibly
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energetic man and did an enormous amount of groundwork’.43 He was a
foundation Trust member and second secretary. He organised a committee to
form the Renmark Branch, with Ian Showell as chairman, and arranged for
Symes to address a public meeting, which observers from local towns were
invited to attend.44 There was a short delay in commencing operations,
however, due to ‘an hiatus caused by the Murray floods.’45
Kempe’s role set the pattern for close connections between ‘head office’ in
Adelaide and the branches, although they were established independently.
Jeffery Clarke, as secretary, recalls driving to Mannum, Robe, Burra, Mount
Gambier and Yorke Peninsula to help branches set up, prepare rules and
arrange records: ‘It was a wonderful time but there were tensions. We simply
couldn’t cope with the volume of stuff.’46 A pattern of constant visiting by
presidents and council members was established as they addressed public
meetings on the benefits of establishing a branch, often in the face of
indifferent or hostile district councils.
Sir Arthur Rymill stressed that, along with reserving open spaces, branches
should aim to set aside a room or building ‘for the collection, preservation, and
display of records and relics of all kinds.’47 This was the beginning of the
branch museums, the first of them opening at Renmark Municipal Hall in 1959.
In 1966 the Branch moved its relics and equipment to the Renmark Institute.48
There was much interest in heritage along the River Murray, as the sense of
history was vivid and recent. The irrigation colony at Renmark began in 1887
and many founding branch members were from the second generation. Their
primary motivation was to ensure their pioneering families’ contributions
would be acknowledged locally, such as in a museum, and many donated
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photos, documents and other treasured items.49 By 1963, five of the eight
branches were along the Murray.
Renmark was unusual in having local government representatives on the
branch committee, including those from Renmark Corporation and Renmark
Irrigation Trust. Mount Gambier was the only other early branch to do so, and
perhaps in both cases this reflected the particular interest of those bodies in
local history and heritage. Alternatively, it may have been due to astute
founders who realised how much help might be given by local government.
There was also a strong interest in conserving flora and fauna, as evidenced by
the donation of properties adjoining the River. A Renmark Branch member has
suggested that ‘the early Riverland branches were at the forefront of initiating
and protecting certain natural resources, long before it became fashionable to
take up environmental issues.’50 As early as April 1957 Renmark Branch was
consulting with the local council to reserve tracts of land near Lock 5 for public
use and also hoped to get a bird sanctuary proclaimed at a known breeding
ground. Neither project eventuated, but in 1959 ten koalas from Flinders Chase
were released on the National Trust Reserve of Goat Island, opened in 1961 by
Sir Edward and Lady Morgan. Branch members spent many years monitoring
the koalas’ health or doing a yearly count, and the animals remain a tourist
The second National Trust branch was established at Millicent on 8 July 1960
under the chairmanship of David Harris, with a membership of 50. Harris, a
doctor, took a broad view of his role, and by 1962 Millicent Branch had
acquired and repaired the old obelisk at the South East’s earliest seaport, Robe.
He continued as chairman and the branch’s driving force and spirit for 37
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years. Mount Gambier Branch also started in July 1960 from a pilot committee,
with W White elected first chairman. The Court House was made available by
the Government and became the Branch museum; later a magnificent stone
shearing shed at Glencoe was donated.
In 1961 Barmera Branch was formed with Kingsley (Joe) Mack as chairman.
Again there was a good show of visitors from Adelaide, including Sir Edward
Morgan. Garth Gow describes his motivation for joining as the same for most
of those present (and at Renmark), ‘namely a desire to preserve the history of
the district, most of us being the second generation of the original settlers, and
well aware of the struggle they had to succeed’.51 Nor’West Bend Branch (later
renamed Waikerie), the third Riverland branch, was formed in 1962 with AC
Kleeman as chairman. Local conservation was proving a great drawcard for
new National Trust members: as EJ Loffler records, at the first Nor’West Bend
meeting in 1962, nine existing Trust members were joined by 21 new members
and one life member.52
Verne McLaren formed Kingston Branch in 1964 and, like Harris at Millicent,
was a longstanding chairman (1964–79). A grazier, McLaren was considered
‘an eccentric’ when he set aside bush while clearing his own land. However, he
aroused interest when he sought the preservation of Dalgety’s building and
shipping ledgers in Kingston, and the new branch succeeded in opening the
building as a museum. Social events were mixed with serious work. As
McLaren recalls, ‘Our purpose was to make [the] National Trust as interesting
as possible so that people of all ages and interests decided to join. This worked
beyond expectations during that early period of our branch.’53 Membership
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quickly grew from seven to 120, the largest in South Australia. McLaren and
Harris later worked together to establish another branch at Robe.54
Most other branches were also established in rural areas by the local
‘Establishment’: doctors, farmers, teachers and businessmen (men
predominated), but they were less elite than the founders of the Trust itself and
less elitist in their activities. They hoped to save unremarkable but typical old
buildings in main streets and on farms, early records and equipment, and local
areas of bush. Their efforts provided a counterpoint to the architectural gems
and prominent State buildings favoured by the Early Buildings Committee,
although all formed part of South Australia’s heritage.
As other branches formed, they persuaded the Trust to acquire old, neglected
buildings, which local members restored and used as museums. Collecting,
preserving and displaying objects became a major branch activity, underlining
its importance to the Trust as a whole. However, South Australia was unique
not only in the number of branches and local museums formed but also because
they were, for all practical purposes, independent of the head office. The
objects collected by branches were also of a different kind from the antiques
favoured by the Trust’s founding members and the furnishings sought for
mansions such as Ayers House. Most branch collections comprised ordinary
objects used in households, on farms and in local industries, shipping and
transport, in country schools, churches and other organisations.
The variety of objects attracted a wide range of enthusiasts to join country
branches, their voluntary work often dividing along gender lines: women
caring for collections indoors and men restoring machinery in ‘the shed’. South
Australia’s history as the nation’s most agrarian state meant that there were
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soon many assemblages of farm machinery in country museums. Because of
the personal links between early branch members and pioneering farming
families, these collections now represent a priceless material record of early
Australian farm technology.
In the 1960s, however, the focus of the State National Trust was on
encouraging new branches rather than offering guidance on what they should
preserve, or why, let alone how. A step in that direction, and as something of
an experiment, the first branch convention was held in 1964 at North Adelaide.
The Trust’s Council and 23 representatives from ten branches attended, with
two observers from other societies. Delegates agreed that this should be an
annual event where branch problems could be discussed ‘and the broad policy
of the Trust made clear to those who have the responsibility of conducting
branch affairs’.55
NTSA Act no 43, 1955.
South Australian Statutes, Government Printer, Adelaide, 1955, p.126.
Interview with Jeffery Clarke, 6 April 2004.
NTSAA, Minute book of the NTSA, Minutes of the inaugural meeting 7 March 1956 (both
NTSAA, Minutes of the first meeting of the Council, 27 March 1956.
SLSA, PRG 368 Papers of HJ Finnis, 368/11: letter from WH Bagot to HJ Finnis, 7 October
SLSA, PRG 368/11: letter from Bagot to Finnis, 7 October 1956.
NTSA Annual Report 1961, p. 7.
NTSA Newsletter, 99 February 1980, Silver Jubilee Issue.
NTSA Newsletter, 10 August 1964.
SLSA PRG 368/11, Papers of HJ Finnis, 1956.
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SLSA PRG 368/11, Papers of HJ Finnis, 1956 (and both quotes).
NTSAA, Executive Committee Minutes, 2 August 1961.
See, for example, ‘The National Trust of South Australia’, paper by the sponsors of the
proposed Trust, NTSAA Box 52: Documents relating to the formation of the NTSA.
NTSA, Silver Jubilee Handbook, 1980, pp 16–18.
NTSA membership brochure (not dated), NTSAA Box 52: Documents relating to the
formation of the NTSA.
NTSA, ‘The first twenty five years’, Newsletter, February 1980 (both quotations).
NTSAA, Executive Committee minutes, 12 July 1956 and 10 November 1956, Council
minutes 23 October 1956.
NTSAA, Executive Committee minutes, 4 September 1962; ACNT records: letter from Sir
Edward Morgan to Hurtle Morphett, 1 February 1963.
Letter from Sir Edward Morgan, 1 February 1963 (and two previous quotes).
SA Museum, Papers of Norman Tindale, AA338/1/48/2: ‘Kurlge’ Journal, 15 July 1951, pp.
NTSA, Early Buildings Committee Minute Book, September 1961 to October 1969.
Australian National Travel Association Research Bulletin, Vol. 4 No. 1, January 1964, p 5.
NTSA Annual Report 1961, p. 4, Executive Committee minutes, 4 March 1963.
Interview with Cedric and Marion Wells, 10 May 2004.
NTSA Annual Report 1961, p. 4.
G Couch-Keen, Tom Downer’s Legacy, Adelaide, 2002; NTSA Newsletter, 10 August 1964,
p. 2; NTSA Silver Jubilee Handbook, p. 18.
Papers of Norman Tindale, AA338/1/48/1 and AA338/1/48/: ‘Kurlge’ Journal, 15 July 1951,
pp. 341–342 and 8 May 1965, pp. 721–722.
NTSA Executive Committee minutes, 24 August 1960.
The Advertiser, 8 December 1964, letter from V McLaren.
NTSAA Box 82, Properties Committee: letter from N Tindale, Curator of Anthropology, SA
Museum to HC Kempe, Hon Sec, NTSA, 5 August 1957.
Interview with Jeffery Clarke, 6 April 2004.
NTSA Annual Reports, 1960 and 1961.
Papers of Norman Tindale, AA338/1/48/1.
Papers of Norman Tindale, AA338/1/48/1.
HA Lindsay, ‘Ancient Treasure in Reserve’, The Advertiser 22 November 1965.
NTSA, Hallett Cove Glacial Pavements, unpublished paper prepared by J Clarke.
Interview with Jeffery Clarke, 6 April 2004.
H Godson, The Marion Story, Leabrook, SA, 1973, p. 69.
Godson, 1973, p. 89.
Interview with Jeffery Clarke, 6 April 2004.
Letter from Mrs Pat Carr, secretary, Tumby Bay Branch, 9 June 2005.
Interview with Jeffery Clarke, 6 April 2004.
The Murray Pioneer, 14 June 1956.
NTSA, Annual Report, 1956.
Interview with Jeffery Clarke, 6 April 2004.
NTSA, Annual Report, 1956, Item 12.
The Murray Pioneer, 7 May 1959 and 17 February 1966.
Heather Everingham, Renmark Branch, pers. comm. June 2005.
Heather Everingham, email, 15 June 2005.
Garth Gow, Chairman, Barmera Branch, letter 20 June 2005.
EJ Loffler, Waikerie Branch, letter 30 June 2005.
Interview with Verne McLaren, 4 August 2004 (quote from his written note).
Interview with Verne McLaren, 4 August 2004 (including written note).
NTSA Newsletter, 10 August 1964, p. 3; NTSAA Box 52, ‘Branch Convention’.
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